How to get better at teaching? Ask your students

2022.10.27 7Cs 1

By Nick Yates, ISB Communications

Published on Thursday, October 27, 2022

Students getting to assess their teachers may once have sounded like a bad joke, but it’s serious business in modern education. This research for the Measures of Effective Teaching Project sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation shows how important it is to include students’ views when examining the quality of teaching.

It’s for that reason that students at the International School of Beijing (ISB) have over the past few weeks been filling in surveys providing feedback on how they think their teachers are doing in the “7Cs”:

  • Care,
  • Confer,
  • Captivate,
  • Clarify,
  • Consolidate,
  • Challenge, and
  • Classroom management.

How ISB takes the best teachers and makes them even better

ISB has high standards in seeking out the best, most highly qualified teachers, and also puts a huge amount of resources into training and development for this world-class faculty so that they can get even better. This is one of the benefits of ISB being a non-profit organization in which all income goes into further improving the school.

ISB has a professional growth system in place for all staff to set goals, reflect, and improve. This system was built in part around the 7Cs surveys, as well as:

  • Classroom observations conducted by school leaders,
  • Teacher self-reflections, and
  • Data on student growth and performance.

Since 2019-2020, the 7Cs surveys have been repeated at ISB near the start and end of each academic year to track changes in students’ perceptions. In addition to supporting teachers in goal setting, the student perception data is used to understand how ISB is faring overall in its teaching.

Students and a teacher working on an art project

Make lessons captivating for the most impressive student achievements

Under ISB’s new Strategic Plan being implemented from this year, ensuring challenging and joyful learning is the school’s core priority. This is underpinned by quality teaching.

Of all the 7Cs, ISB is focusing most this year on captivate – the ability to cultivate interaction in the classroom and to spark and maintain student interest in learning. As ISB Head of School Daniel Rubenstein has noted, “We see the most impressive student achievements when classes are truly engaging in each subject for the whole group of students. All around campus, on a daily basis, I see students loving what they’re learning, where there is a passion for the subject that leads naturally to achievement.”

Teachers will take the feedback from their students and other data points and act on it.

What did ISB teachers learn from 7Cs surveying last year?

In the Elementary School, classroom management emerged as a growth area. Clarissa Sayson, who was then ISB’s Elementary School Principal, said in March 2022, “As a leadership team, we honed in on clarifying and reinforcing behavior expectations in key areas of the Elementary School that are frequented throughout the school day.”

This, allied with a focus on care, led to teachers feeling more connected to students and to students coming to school more excited to learn, according to Ms. Sayson.

The Middle School PE Department used lots of different data points including 7Cs surveys to inform their professional development in 2021-2022. The data indicated that the department needed to spend time considering how to challenge students in a PE environment. 

“We focused on challenge in different units – to come to a consensus [with students] about definitions of what challenge is in PE,” said Middle School PE teacher Mel Hamada.

“For example, competitive environments are super challenging and motivating for some students and very risky for others. Sharing our values around competition allowed students to learn about how others feel when in a competitive environment and have empathy and support when working together.

“Challenge can be personal or team – I can challenge myself to learn and use a new badminton skill in gameplay and I can also work with a friend on a tactical play when we play doubles.

“We used specific unit and lesson objectives to identify the different parts of challenge and then set up games/activities for them to work on this in class. We used exit tickets, reflective conversations, and tech like DX and Padlet to capture this.”

“I’m hopeful that further 7Cs surveying will give us more great insight to act on,” Ms. Hamada added.

After completing this latest round of surveying for 2022-2023, students will next have chance to give feedback on their teachers in March 2023. ISB will be looking keenly at how captivated they have felt!


The kind of challenging and joyful learning that comes through quality teaching is one of three main focus areas for ISB under its new Strategic Plan. ISB news articles in 2022-2023 are all looking at an aspect of ISB that’s an example of one of the three areas. To find out more, click here.

ISB is an extraordinary school, made so by a tradition of educational excellence spanning 40 years. Establishing, nurturing, and growing such an exceptional learning community has been and remains intentional; we work hard to build strong relationships so our learning is at its best.

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